28 Sep 2012

Watchdog says pursuit should have ended sooner

8:05 pm on 28 September 2012

A police pursuit of a speeding car that crashed in the Bay of Plenty, killing the two men in it, should have been called off sooner, a report has found.

An investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority into the deaths of Harley Wilson, 21, and Michael Keepa, 25 in October 2010 was released on Friday.

It says the chase should have stopped earlier when the men were driving about 120km/h in a 50km/h zone.

The men were driving a ute they had stolen in Levin to visit family in the Bay of Plenty. The police pursuit started in Mount Maunganui after they sped away to avoid a checkpoint.

It was initially called off after the men swerved to avoid road spikes laid in Papamoa Beach, but later two other police cars joined in at speeds of 135km/h in a 50km/h zone.

The IPCA found that the driver, Harley Wilson, was prepared to risk lives to avoid being caught.

However, it says while police were justified in starting the chase, their speed was dangerous to the public, the men who died and the officers.

The IPCA recommends all staff involved are reminded of the risks of high-speed chases.

Decisions under extreme pressure - Commander

Bay of Plenty District Commander, Superintendent Glenn Dunbier,says it is not uncommon to resume a chase.

"And each time each pursuit is being managed with regard to the risk it poses at that particular time, so ... hindsight's a wonderful thing," he says.

"But our staff are making these judgements on this stuff with very limited information under extreme time pressure, and we'll occasionally get a disagreement with these decisions."

Mr Dunbier could not say whether the officers involved will face disciplinary action because it is an employment matter.